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About Norton “Safe Web”

August 2, 2010

A client emailed me about his site not having the green check mark that Norton Safe Web adds after each site listing in search results.

Below is my response, I think it is useful information to anyone who has Norton Safe Web or is wondering about becoming a verified site by Norton:

Norton used to be the industry standard for all online safety and security.  However, now that it has gain popularity and become more common, it has directed its attention to home users or people who are using computers to just play games and surf the web.  Businesses and “techies” have diverted away from Norton because of its over commercialization and ability to “take over” and “clober” files and online habits.  In other words, Norton has become limiting in content and permissions as it sees fit, and not on the user’s needs.  For example, Norton came pre-installed on my new computer, and if I were to activate it, for a LARGE fee, I would not be able to send you this email as Norton finds any program using the internet connection that is not a browser, or any document that has an code or image properties that is not a website, a threat and therefore blocks it’s use and capabilities.

Also, Norton no longer scans for files infected or harmful until after installed on the computer and it detects a problem or is running a scheduled scan.  Instead, it operates based on “trends” of a “basic user” and applies those pre-set trends  to all computers it is installed on, based on the fee level you are willing to pay.

Norton, is, in other words, become a tyrant.

Their “Safe Web” program is their latest endeavor to controlling content and limiting user abilities.  They believe that by having “verified” websites and showing statuses of those websites (in the form of a check mark, question mark, or “x” ) is a user friendly and easy way to show people what content is safe and what is not.  In reality, those marks simply mean the website has not been entered into their directory yet.

Norton’s Safe Web is actually a “beta” form of software.  In other words, it is still in testing and not available for purchase yet.  However, it is being automatically downloaded to Norton subscribers (without their permission) to be tested.  During this time Norton is encouraging website owners to create an account and verify ownership if the site to gain the green check mark.  Signing up is free, and the verification process can take up to 2 weeks.  Afterward, in order to gain the green check mark, Norton will “suggest” you make certain changes to your site so it will be “safer” (or in this case, so it will index easier with it’s software).  If you are not able or willing to make the “suggested” changes, Norton will not allow your site to have the green check or be in their directory any longer.

Also, while it is free to join their directory and become verified now, Norton has not disclosed if keeping your account or verification status will be free after they enter out of beta testing and are distributed by purchase.

In other words, Safe Web is Norton’s way of forcing websites to have a certain type of standardize coding that will work better with their systems and looking for a way to make a profit off of it.

However, just has you do, people may see this, and not knowing all the information about Safe Web, chose not to enter your site.  If you feel this is going to be an issue, or you are afraid of what will happen if your site is not verified, then you should start the process of verification.  Just be aware of the information above, and know it may cost you later or may force you to change your website.

I will not be going through the verification at this time for my site for 3 reasons:
~I do not want to change my site to suit Norton’s parameters.
~I do not trust Beta software
~I will not sign up for a “Free” account if there is no decisions as to what happens with that account after sign up / beta testing is over.
~I do not trust Norton’s intentions or software products as is

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Suggestions for a good website:

July 3, 2009

In order to make your website more effective and reach a variety of users, I make these general suggestions:

  • Keep your pages small to minimize scrollage.  This also presents all or most of your information quickly for the user.
  • Keep your content short and simple.  The average reading level is 8th grade.  Newspapers are printed on a 6th grade level to appeal to everyone.  Also, remember most people scan the net – short simple sentences and paragraphs makes this easy.
  • Use lists.
  • Use headings.  Headings break up large chunks of info.  They also are SEO friendly and make scanning quick and easy.
  • Make keywords headings and use them often.
  • Do not use video, slides, or any complicated images with lots of movement on pages directly, make those options available on separate pages.  This minimizes load times and lessens the chance of a browser hang.  It also ensures that your page can be viewed by all, not just those who have compatible browsers or programs.
  • Repeat your information.  Remember, there are a lot of people who are not going to read all the information, the more it is presented, the more likely it’ll get noticed.
  • Keep you file sizes small – this also includes pictures.  This will also minimize load time.
  • Do not use a lot of pictures on one page.  Pictures are great, but if you have too many on one page, it will take a long time to load.  Or use thumbnail pictures linked to larger pictures to minimize load time.
  • Add information about yourself.  You can keep it professional, but showing your users who they are working with and communicating with builds trust.
  • Use lots of outside links and make them open in a new window, so you don’t have your users navigate away from your site.
  • Remember the “3 Click Rule.”  If users can’t find the info they need in 3 clicks, then most will move on.
  • Consider pages with downloads or printer friendly versions of your information.
  • Have contact information on every page.
  • Have text buttons along with your graphic ones.
  • Think about people with disabilities and if you need tailor your site for those users.
  • Keep your site updated!  You may want to add a date that the page or site was last updated.
  • Create your site to match previously printed documents or documents currently in use or vice versa.  This creates brand recognition and lets your users know they are in the right place.
  • Try to keep the size and shape and display of your pictures consistent, especially when they are displaying products.
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How much does it cost?

July 3, 2009

This is on everyone’s mind.  Simple answer – it depends on what you need.

While my prices are posted online, adding them up and sometimes deciphering them can be confusing if you are not too sure what’s going on and how all those numbers apply to you.

As we build your site, I will be sure to tell you of extra charges and how the pricing will apply to you.  You will only pay for your final product.  Anything in between is considered a draft / not useable.

If you are budget oriented, let me know, we can certainly find a way for you to have a nice site that fits your needs and budget.

I will say that graphic charges are always the bulk of the bill.  Most of my clients spend between $850 and $1200 to have their site built.  Monthly fees (such as hosting and domain name) average $5 a month / $60 a year.  Maintenance and updating varies between clients.

If you have ecommerce capabilities on your site, like a shopping cart, or subscribe to a service, then of course your fees will be higher.

All that being said, I have several clients that I have built sites for well under the $800 range.

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How do I pick a domian name and how much does it cost?

July 3, 2009

Your domain name is completely up to you.  What’s the name of your business or website?  That’s always a good place to start.

If the domain name you want is not available, add some other descriptive terms, like city, or state.

You can also try alternate spellings, but don’t get too creative and make things hard for people to remember.  You can also add “-“ to a domain name.

Also, if you can’t get a .com name, don’t worry.  Other extensions, like .net or .us, or .org are perfectible acceptable.

A domain name costs about $10 a year.  Most hosing packages provide free hosting and registration for your first domain name.  You SHOULD NOT buy your domain name separate from your hosting if possible.

You can see if your desired domain is availible by going to http://www.whois.net

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I don’t know anything about the web!?!

July 3, 2009

It’s ok if you don’t know anything about the web – I’ll help you learn!

Once you get the basics down, you will find that the internet is not that scary.  And, the more you use it, the easier things will come and the more you will learn and do for yourself.

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How long does building a web site take?

July 3, 2009

Time varies depending on the size and features of the project.

Typically, it take between 6 – 8 weeks start to finish.  If there are any delays, from either other companies or from you not sending content or answering “homework” then it will take longer.

If the site is small it will take less time.  Also, a rush service is available for a slight fee.

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What do I need to get started building a website?

July 3, 2009

First thing, you need to have an internet connection, either at home or at work.  Otherwise you won’t be able to see or maintain your website.

You also need an email address and a credit card.

After that, you need some time to put together a site, and some idea or content for your site.

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